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Damaged team AkzoNobel completes tortuous third leg

Damaged team AkzoNobel completes tortuous third leg of Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 in Melbourne, Australia

Team AkzoNobel arrives in Melbourne, Australia at the end of the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Cape Town, South Africa
Image © Thierry Martinez / team AkzoNobel

In brief:
– Seventh place for team AkzoNobel on Leg 3 after sustaining mast and sail damage in Southern Ocean storm conditions four days after start from Cape Town
– Disappointing Leg 3 result drops team to sixth place overall with eight legs still to sail
– Melbourne pit stop provides four-day window for shore team repairs and crew recovery period before start of Leg 4 to Hong Kong on January 2, 2018

Thursday, December 28, 2017: Team AkzoNobel has arrived in Melbourne, Australia at the end of the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race around the world – a punishing 12,000 nautical-mile passage through the wilds of the Southern Ocean from Cape Town, South Africa.

The international crew of seven men and two women led by Netherlands yachtsman Simeon Tienpont finished the leg in seventh place, well behind the rest of the fleet, after badly damaging the mast and mainsail of their Volvo Ocean 65 racing yacht in strong winds and big seas four days after leaving Cape Town.

The damage occurred when the boat capsized during a “gybe” turn in 45 knots of wind and mountainous waves on December 14 deep in the Southern Ocean close to the Volvo Ocean Race’s Antarctic Ice Exclusion Zone.

The impact of the wipe-out wrenched large sections of the mainsail track off the back face of the mast, broke several of the horizontal carbon battens that help give the sail its aerodynamic shape in the wind, as well as puncturing the mainsail itself in several places.

Gybe footage and sailor reactions below.


After managing to wrestle the massive sail down to the deck – no easy feat given the storm conditions prevailing at the time – the team AkzoNobel sailors were able to continue racing, albeit at half-speed using only the boat’s forward sails, as they assessed their options to effect repairs to get them back up to full pace as quickly as possible.

In the end it took three days and two attempts to re-attach the mainsail track to the mast using strong epoxy glue before, on December 17, while holding their collective breath the crew gingerly re-hoisted the newly repaired mainsail.

Within minutes of it becoming apparent that the second repair was going to hold the sailors had the boat ripping along at speeds approaching 30 knots (55 kilometers per hour) as they set about chasing down the rest of the seven-boat fleet now several hundred miles ahead.

Watch the re-hoist below


Despite giving their all for the rest of the leg, hopes of a fairy tale comeback quickly faded on December 21 after light winds from an easterly expanding high pressure system slowed the team’s progress dramatically.

As well as putting paid to any chance of making it to Melbourne in time for Christmas Day, the slowdown also ate into the time available for full repairs to be carried out by the shore team before the start of Leg 4 to Hong Kong on January 2 2018.

Team AkzoNobel crossed the Leg 3 finish line in Melbourne at 10:24:45Australian Eastern Daylight Time on December 28 (23:24:45 UTC on December 27 / 00:24:45 CET on December 28) 17 days, 11 hours, 24 minutes after leaving Cape Town, South Africa on December 10.

The seventh-place result is a psychological blow for the crew who had been mixing it comfortably with the leading pack before their ill-fated gybe and had hoped to secure a podium result on the double points Southern Ocean leg.

“We are disappointed, there is no denying it,” said skipper Tienpont. “We did four days of racing and fourteen days of delivering the boat in time to get the repairs done. That’s the way it goes sometimes and we all know we now need to get our rest while the shore crew do what they need to do to get the boat back in shape, so that we are ready for Leg 4.”

Team AkzoNobel inches towards the finish line in Melbourne, Australia
© Jesus Renado / Volvo Ocean Race
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Watch captain Chris Nicholson echoed Tienpont’s sentiment over the result.

“You can’t hide the fact that we had hoped for a lot more on this leg and we haven’t delivered it,” he said. “The important thing now is to take what we have learned and do better in the next leg. The gybe was a one-off incident – a mistake that we won’t make again – and I take from it that we will be able to race competitively going forward.”

The boat was met on shore in Melbourne by members of the team AkzoNobel technical shore team, staff from the Volvo Ocean Race’s Boatyard service facility, and expert technicians from mast manufacturer Southern Spars who together will manage the un-stepping of the boat’s mast and subsequent repair – a process expected to take up to three days.

Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, a complex 11,000-kilometer northerly passage from Melbourne to Hong Kong, is scheduled to begin on Tuesday January 2 – meaning the weary team AkzoNobel sailors will have just four days recovery time ashore before they are back in competitive action once again.

Team AkzoNobel crew list for Leg 3:
Simeon Tienpont (NED) - skipper
Brad Farrand (NZL)
Justin Ferris (NZL)
Martine Grael (BRA)
Emily Nagel (GBR/BER)
Chris Nicholson (AUS)
Alex Pella (ESP)
Jules Salter (GBR)
Nicolai Sehested (DEN)

Leg 3 results:
1 Mapfre (ESP) 15 points
2 Dongfeng Race Team (CHN) 12 points
3 Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA) 10 points
4 Team Brunel (NED) 8 points
5 Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG) 6 points
6 Turn the Tide on Plastic (UN) 4 points
7 Team AkzoNobel (NED) 2 points

Overall leaderboard (after three of 11 legs):
1 Mapfre (ESP) 29 points
2 Dongfeng Race Team (CHN) 23 points
3 Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA) 23 points
4 Team Brunel (NED) 14 points
5 Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG) 11 points
6 team AkzoNobel (NED) 9 points
7 Turn the Tide on Plastic (UN) 6 points

© Scoop Media

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